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By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 9 May 2005 —A major disappointment in the summer of 2003 was the cancellation of many of France’s summer events because of strikes by performers and technicians. One of the casualties was a production of Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac at the Festival de Radio France et de Montpellier, but special negotiations allowed the project to be filmed and we can now enjoy the DVD which restores the French text and certain scenes that were eliminated at the 1936 world premiere in Rome (four performances) before going on to a further four performances retranslated back into French at the Opéra-Comique that same year, with the same exceptional tenor on both occasions, José Luccioni. The DVD now restores as much as possible of Rostand’s text which is a classic in French.

Alfano’s opera makes extraordinary casting demands: a tenor for the title role who is noble of spirit and an exceptional actor and a second tenor who is a handsome young man with voice to match, both singing flawless French. The DVD has done quite well in this respect, with Roberto Alagna’s Cyrano assuming tragic stature at the end. Richard Troxell’s male equivalent of the dumb blond is almost right for Christian and his French while not perfect is damned good. Nathalie Manfrino’s Roxane also grows through the opera, from the silly young creature enamored of Christian up through her realization that it is Cyrano who has inspired her love. Nicolas Rivenq (De Guiche), Marc Barrard (Ragueneau), Franck Ferrari (De Valvert/Carbon), Richard Rittelman (Le Bret) and Hanna Schaer (Duenna/Soeur Marthe) round out the cast, while the Orchestre National de Montpellier and the forces of the Opéra National de Montpellier give their all for conductor Marco Guidarini. The Alagna family is additionally represented by brothers David and Frédérico Alagna who are responsible for sets and also direction of the production.

Is the opera worth reviving is the next question. Yes, but only with an exceptional performer, just as many other works of the early 20th century are only viable with exceptional singers, such as Adriana Lecouvreur, Fedora, Iris or Alfano’s Risurezzione. And a role like Cyrano is a godsend for the right performer. Whether the ageless Placido Domingo will carry off the athletics of the role convincingly will soon be seen, whether he will sing the role as written is another question that will soon be answered, but for anyone curious about operatic byways Cyrano is definitely a work that offers rewards to both performers and audiences.

Alfano: Cyrano de Bergerac
Nathalie Manfrino (Roxane); Roberto Alagna (Cyrano); Richard Troxell (Christian); Nicolas Rivenq (De Guiche); Narc Barrard (Ragueneau); Franck Ferrari (De Valvert/Carbon); Richard Rittelman (Le Bret)
Orchestre National de Montpellier
Choeur de l’Opéra National de Montpellier
Marco Guidarini, conductor

DVD DGG 982 707-4
Release date: 10 May 2005

Metropolitan Opera
Sondra Radvanovsky, Placido Domingo, Raymond Very, Anthony Michaels-Moore
Fabio Armiliato, conductor
Francesca Zambello, director

13,17,20 May 2005, with further performances scheduled in 2006

Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor of Culturekiosque.com.


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